Beneath a Meth Moon: An Elegy
In layers of flashback, fifteen-year-old Laurel reveals events that led to her fall into meth addiction and her eventual emergence into a hopeful place of new beginnings. When she was twelve, Laurel’s mother and grandmother died after Hurricane Katrina hit Pass Christian, Mississippi. This devastating loss is brought into greater relief throughout the rest of the novel as the more recent story unfolds. Laurel, her father, and young brother eventually settle in the small town of Galilee. Basketball team co-captain T-Boom introduces her to meth, and Laurel soon becomes consumed by it, devasting her father. Laurel runs away and is living on the streets of another small town when she meets Moses, an African American foster kid whose mother died from meth. Moses earns money by painting murals of meth victims his commissions from bereaved family members serve as cautionary public service announcements on buildings around the town. Moses doesn’t look through Laurel like others, and that ends up being the difference between life and death for Laurel, and the start of real healing. Author Jacqueline Woodson treats this hard and timely topic with raw honesty as well as her trademark grace. Laurel’s voice is like a whisper, but one that you want to lean in closer to hear so you don’t miss anything she has to say. CCBC Category: Fiction for Young Adults. 2012, Nancy Paulsen Books / Penguin, Age 12 and older, $16.99.
REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices).
Hero of Hawaii
Darci’s birthday is next week and her brother, Calvin, has decided on a big surprise for her but he will need some adult help to pull it together. Ledward, Mom’s boyfriend, has brought the lumber and tools to help Calvin build a slide that the kids can enjoy at the party. Stella’s boyfriend, Clarence, is there to help too. As the afternoon progresses and the winds pick up, Ledward tells those gathered for the workday that there is a storm brewing just off the coast of their beautiful Hawaii and it may interfere with their party plans. But Calvin is not worried because storms can be exciting to watch and he will be able to get his best friend Willy to sleepover so that they can watch the storm together. As Darci prepares for the party, Calvin and Willy do their best to slip out of the supervisory reach of their Moms, to explore the island that is now under a storm alert. When their curiosity gets them in trouble, Calvin has to make some quick decisions– the outcome of which could cost young Willy his life. All of Calvin’s family is eager to help him when things get out of hand but the most important help comes from Calvin himself and the bravery that he shows in giving his all for his friend. This is a simple story that presents friendship, and step-parent issues, while focusing on positive images of bravery, loyalty and acceptance. Salisbury has given us four other Calvin stories and Rogers makes the characters real with her pen and ink drawings of Calvin, Darci and Clarence. This is a recommended title for elementary collections. 2010, Wendy Lamb Books/Random House, Ages 6 to 10, $12.99.
REVIEWER: Joyce Rice (Children’s Literature).
Chasing the World’s Most Dangerous Storms
There’s nothing like adventure to lure students to science. This book, part of a series called Extreme Explorations, is designed to appeal to 3rd through 6th grade students. It’s full of drama and provides accurate science content. Readers follow storm chasers as they explore meteorology. The book has a rather unusual format for this grade level. Each page features a stand-alone topic such as “In a Twister” or “Seeking Supercells.” Information is presented in a dramatic fashion to engender interest, and the various topics have annotated illustrations to draw attention to specific items mentioned in the text. The text is written in short, easily understood sentences designed to appeal to students at this age level. Also provided is a glossary that pulls together all the terms presented on the various pages; a section with further information from websites, films, and books; and an index. Either alone or as part of the series, this book could provide students with a desire to read about science. It would be a useful addition to a school library or classroom science reading shelf. 2010, Capstone, Ages 8 to 12, $25.32.
REVIEWER: Steve Canipe (National Science Teachers Association (NSTA)).
When Mike arrives for his summer vacation with his dad, he isn’t prepared for a stint on Shipwreck Island. He soon meets Kyle, a fifteen-year-old who’s barely been on the island longer than Mike. When Mike and Kyle investigate Fort Henry, and old Civil War fort, they stumble upon a secret that might reveal the contents of a treasure chest on the Skink, a Confederate shipwreck just off the coast of Shipwreck Island. Unfortunately, a salvage crew already is stationed on the site. Not only that, but a Category 4 hurricane is headed their way. As treasure hunts go, this book won’t disappoint. Mike, an avid coin collector, and Kyle, who is always up for an adventure, are well-developed and believable teen characters. Collard weaves the historical aspects of the book into the action and creates a thrilling, fast-paced read. Recommended. Category: Mystery/Adventure.. 2009, Peachtree, Ages 11 to 15, $16.95.
REVIEWER:Kathy L. Fiedler (Kutztown University Book Review).
Horrors of History: City of the Dead
Although fictionalized, this story is based on an historic natural disaster. The deadliest storm in U.S. history that struck Galveston, Texas, in 1900 took this city to its foundation. At that time, weather news was minimal when this storm with no name came ashore to the island city from the Gulf of Mexico on the morning of September 8th. The hurricane killed an estimated 8,000 residents. The Prologue gives information about the storm from the perspective of a young reporter who was covering the aftermath. A map shows the location of Galveston on the Gulf of Mexico and numerous locations within the city. Ten chapters supplemented with black and white photographs detail the devastation caused by this storm. The author’s historical information, believable dialogue and fictional characters help bring the horror of this event alive. It is the first book in the four-book “Horrors of History”series, which commemorates horrific, life-changing events in our nation’s past. The second book, Ocean of Fire: The Burning of Columbia, 1865, also by T. Neill Anderson, will be available in February 2014. Both historical persons and fictional characters are included in these books. 2013, Charlesbridge,, Ages 8 to 12, $16.95.
REVIEWER: Annie Laura Smith (Children’s Literature).
This Heinemann Info-Search series offers truely awesome descriptions of natural phenomena. Each book packages the facts, science, statistics, and human experience with natural phenomena in a way that flows logically, making it attractive and understandable for students. The photos in each book are worth a thousand words. Students watch and hear news in the media, but there is something about a photo that makes them stop, focus, and reflect. The scientific explanation for the cause of each natural phenomenon is kept simple, as is the explanation of the technology used to predict it. This simplicity will help teachers use this book for third- and fourth-grade elementary students and still challenge fifth-grade students with statistics reflecting the enormous economic and social damage caused by natural disasters. Each book in the series uses the same format, making it familiar to students. Hurricanes can be the source of other natural disasters such as tornados, storm surges, and flooding. These are defined briefly and are the subject of five other books in this series. Questions about hurricanes are highlighted, keeping readers focused on the answer. A distinction is made between the amount of destruction a hurricane causes in a “developed” country and in a “developing” country. Issues of insurance, the structure of homes, and the coordination or lack of aide is discussed. Students are advised what to do during a hurricane, how to prepare for one, and what rescue efforts they might expect. This series has been updated and discusses hurricanes that occurred in 2010. Many students still remember New Orleans after Katrina. There are many images of destruction, and most memorable to most students is a photo of a puppy accompanying a family with children. This book is especially pertinent if used at the start of the school year since most hurricanes occur from June to late November, based on the global location. For the hurricane trackers in class, there are websites included in the book. There are also images of spiraling hurricanes from the international space center that can be monitored by student scientists. The beauty of the books in this series is that the information can be in almost “real time.” They bring many other subjects together, making them ideal for integrated studies at the elementary level. For example, students can use maps to track the path of hurricanes while calculating the speed and possible directions of its path. Studying the rotation of the Earth can help students to understand why hurricanes in the northern hemisphere spin clockwise and cyclones move counter clockwise in the southern hemisphere. The books in this series also contain supporting elements to encourage informational reading. Almost every page has a related photo, map, graph, or diagram with an information box explaining exactly what is depicted. Terms in the glossary are bolded and relate to geography, social studies, and science. Teachers will find them to be “awesome” additions to their classroom. 2010, Heinemann Library, Ages 8 to 11, $7.99.
REVIEWER: Karen Timmons (National Science Teachers Association (NSTA).
Hurricane and Typhoon Alert!
It seems like every day there is a news report about a disaster happening somewhere in the world. Curious students would like to know more about the causes of these disasters and reading provides a good opportunity to teach important science content. This book is part of a series called Disaster Alert! which provides interesting information on the causes of disasters. As the author notes: “A disaster is a destructive event that affects the natural world and human communities. Some disasters are predictable and others occur without warning.” The book includes 11 chapters, a glossary, an index, and a list of websites. The chapters are filled with many excellent photographs and illustrations. Along with facts about hurricanes and typhoons, some myths and beliefs are presented. The “Recipe for Disaster” is actually an experiment the reader can try at home using household items. In this book, readers use food coloring in a jar of water to demonstrate how winds flow. Science teachers need to seize teachable moments such as disasters as an opportunity to help students learn more about how the movements of wind and water produce the disasters we call hurricanes and typhoons, such as Hurricane Katrina. 2011, Crabtree, Ages 8 to 12, $8.95.
Basic information about hurricanes is presented in clearly written text accompanied with illustrations, diagrams, and maps to aid in understanding. Readers learn how hurricanes are formed and where they most frequently occur. The National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida, is staffed with meteorologists who track the storms and rate them according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, ranging from Category 1, with the least impact on the environment, through Category 5, which causes massive flooding and destruction. Three Category 5 Hurricanes are described, including the one in Galveston in 1900, Hurricane Andrew in 1992, and Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Information about forecasting and tracking hurricanes includes definitions of a “storm watch” and a “storm warning” and ways to prepare for each of them, including evacuation. Definitions of key words are printed on the informative illustrations. An “Interesting Facts” page in the back compares hurricanes to other types of storms found around the world and lists websites for further information. A good source of information for young researchers. 2009, Holiday House, Ages 5 to 10, $17.95.
REVIEWER: Phyllis Kennemer, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature)
Hurricanes: The Science Behind Killer Storms
As a title in “The Science Behind Natural Disasters” series, this book gives an introductory overview of hurricanes, including how they form, the various stages of weather systems leading up to a full-fledged hurricane, how scientists track them, and what to do should you find yourself in the middle of one. Graphics and photos are clear, and the inclusion of the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, which is the scale by which hurricanes are ranked, as well as colorful insets that answer questions like “What does hurricane mean?” and “Why do hurricanes swirl around in a circle?” add interesting tidbits to the topic. As most if not all curriculum standards include a study of weather systems, this would serve as a beginning point for those unfamiliar with hurricanes, and the reading level and layout are sophisticated enough that it would work well for middle school students who struggle with reading. Includes many references to Hurricane Katrina. Websites and bibliography are provided for further investigation. 2010, Enslow, Ages 8 to 12, $23.93.
REVIEWER: Maggie Chase (Children’s Literature).
In this spare, beautiful story, twelve-year-old Laneesha is gifted with “the sight.” Sbe is able to see ghosts with her strange green-yellow eyes. Laneesha lives with Mama Ya-Ya, the midwife who birthed her, in the poor community of New Orleans’ Ninth Ward; Laneesha’s mother, who died birthing her, lives with her, too, a silent ghost lying motionless on the bed upstairs. Kids at school tease Laneesha, calling her “spooky Laneesha” and “Devil Eye,” but, secure in the love of Mama Ya-Ya (“Mama Ya-Ya + Laneesha = Love”), Laneesha knows she is strong, like a butterfly that keeps “changing, no matter what, going from ugly worm to hard cocoon to strong wings.” Laneesha’s strength is about to be severely tested when Hurricane Katrina bears down upon the Ninth Ward; Laneesha, together with another outcast child, TaShon, and a stray dog named Spot, must face the rising waters that threaten to engulf them. Laneesha is a wonderfully strong and confident heroine, curious, smart, brave, and true, whose strength and confidence are born of the love of her dead birth-mother and adopted Mama Ya-Ya. Rhodes delivers a moving tribute to the power of this kind of love to enable us to endure whatever must be endured. If there are awards for books that celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, this one is a clear contender. 2010, Little Brown, Ages 9 to 12, $15.99.
REVIEWER: Claudia Mills, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach
Saint Louis Armstrong Beach is a seventh-grade prodigy, playing his clarinet for tourists in the Quarter in New Orleans to make money for his first goal, a new clarinet, and his ultimate one, Juilliard. He’s well known around the neighborhood, and he has a special interest in the neighborhood dog, Shadow, even though his father won’t let him claim Shadow as his own. As Hurricane Katrina develops in strength and changes its course, he and his dad, along with other men in the neighborhood, board up windows and prepare for evacuation, but old Miz Moran hides from her daughter when it’s time to go. Saint is supposed to go with his uncle to Baton Rouge, but he insists on taking Shadow, and when the dog runs away, so does Saint. He ends up with Shadow at Miz Moran’s house, where they hole up in the attic as the storm rages and Miz Moran’s forgotten her insulin. This will obviously beg comparison with Jewell Parke Rhodes’s Ninth Ward (BCCB 10/10), where another gifted child ends up in an attic with an elderly woman in need of medical attention and gets help from a supernatural source. Ultimately, both books are solid reads that feature likable protagonists with distinctive, readable voices, and emphasize the importance of faith, community, and resilience. Pair them to help young readers imagine what it must have been like for survivors before, during, and after one of the deadliest hurricanes in American history. Review Code: R — Recommended. (c) 2011, Paulsen/Penguin, Grades 4-7, $16.99.
Reviewer: Karen Coats (The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books).
Sassy: The Birthday Storm
Sassy is excited because she is going to go to Florida to visit her grandmother. While there, the family will celebrate Grammy’s birthday. How exciting! Unfortunately, a hurricane is headed straight for Grammy’s town. All the shops get boarded up. Grammy’s birthday arrives, and Sassy realizes that all of the usual celebratory elements of birthday parties are not going to happen. There will not even be candles to blow out. Fortunately, the day is not really ruined. The family gets involved with others in helping the baby sea turtles that are to be born on the beaches. They find the eggs and move them to a safe place, hoping that the baby turtles will hatch. Sassy has many questions, including “Were the turtles hurt in the move?” “Will they know what direction the ocean it?” “Will all the eggs hatch?” Her questions go on and on. Ultimately, Sassy learns that love is the best birthday gift of all. At the end of the book, the author includes a page of “Facts about Hurricanes” and a page of “Facts about Sea Turtles.” This is a fun book to read. It is perfect for teaching a bit of science as well as a bit of life. Sassy is absolutely adorable. Part of the “Sassy” series. 2009, Scholastic, Ages 7 to 9. $14.99.
REVIEWER: Kathie M. Josephs (Children’s Literature).
A Storm Called Katrina
When the waters start rising in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, ten-year-old Louis Daniel and his parents flee through the flooded streets on a makeshift raft. They take refuge at the Superdome, and when he and his mom become separated from his dad in the chaos there, Louis Daniel takes out his cornet, stands in the center of the football field, and blows. His dad knows exactly who’s making that music! Author Myron Uhlberg references a few of the grimmer aspects of the Katrina tragedy in this picture book ably illustrated by Colin Bootman, but does so with restraint. A pile of clothes Louis Daniel sees in the water suggests a body. “Mama covered my eyes. ‘Don’t look, Baby.'” At the Superdome, it’s noisy and smelly, and tempers often flare. But Uhlberg stays true to Louis Daniel’s perspective, including his ongoing concern for a black-and-white dog he saw floating on a bunch of boards. His reunion with the dog at story’s end may be a bit unrealistic, but it’s a welcome conclusion to a story that is admirable for its child-centered presentation of difficult events. CCBC Category: Picture Books for School-Age Children. 2011, Peachtree, Ages 6-10., $17.95.
REVIEWER: CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices, 2012).
As any reader of teen fiction knows, there has been a surge in the publishing of epic new series designed to pull the reader through a heavy backstory, new mythologies, and a vast array of new characters. What a pleasant surprise to find a book that provides the same amount of excitement and intensity, but with less, well, epic-ness. Chase Masters and his father are storm chasers and their latest target brings them to the outskirts of St. Petersburg, Florida. While his dad is out tracking Hurricane Emily, Chase is left to attend school. With the hurricane coming, students are sent home on buses, even though Chase warns the administrators that that is the worst place they could be when the Hurricane hits. Hours after the bus leaves school, the storm hits, with Chase, Nicole, and another student still on the bus. It is up to Chase, armed with his survival pack, to rescue his friends and lead them out of harm’s way. Smith’s new series is full of strong characters, unique situations (a pregnant elephant and a leopard on the loose cause Nicole and Chase worry during the storm), and plenty of action packed into a relatively short novel. While there is a pay off at the end of this book, readers will no doubt be ready to read the next chapter of Chase’s wild night. This title is recommended for all middle grade and YA collections. VOYA CODES: 4Q 4P J (Better than most, marred only by occasional lapses; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9). 2011, Scholastic, Ages 12 to 15, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Sarah Sogigian (VOYA).
The Superstorm Hurricane Sandy
This title, part of the “True Book” series, covers Hurricane Sandy from early warnings to the immediate aftermath. The five short chapters walk readers through the storm as it pushed through the Caribbean and across the Atlantic. It includes information on the storm preparations including evacuations, the closing up of homes, stocking up on non-perishables, and shutting down transportation systems. The text goes on to describe the winds and floods when it hit New Jersey and New York. It then describes the most immediate aftereffects, including: fires; gasoline, food and drinking water shortages; electrical outages that lasted for weeks, wide-spread erosion, and flooded subway tunnels. Interspersed with the story are pages of related information on climate change, other hurricanes, and the effects on other parts of the country, such as the presidential election campaigns being put on hold. Text features include full-color photographs, maps, a timeline, a table of contents, an index, and a list of resources. The first page asks a true or false question that gives readers a purpose for close reading. 2013, Children’s Press, Ages 7 to 10, $29.00.
REVIEWER: Lisa Colozza Cocca (Children’s Literature).
THurricanes are large and very complex tropical storms. They are so complicated that a wind scale has been created to measure the intensity of their wind speed. This scale is called the Saffire-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. It is based on wind speed, which is measured in kilometers or miles per hour. Hurricane speeds can reach up to 120 miles per hour. The huge floods that can accompany hurricanes are strong enough to force houses from their foundations. Galveston, Texas, in 1900 Sarah Littlejohn was only eight years old when she experienced a hurricane. She heard screams in the night and her home filled with water. Sarah and her family stayed upstairs in the bathroom to stay dry. Before the night was over thousands of homes were destroyed. Sarah’s home was not. In 1974, Dawin, Austrailia is where Antony Haywood met Cyclone Tracy, a Category 5 hurricane. After taking refuge under their bed, Antony and his family survived. Their home was nothing more than a pile of bricks. Hurricane Katrina is one that devastated New Orleans in 2005. Chris Nungesser and his family evacuated to New Iberia. Roads were jammed with traffic. All Chris could do was watch the reports on television. Homes were filled with water and many lives were lost. Chris was not able to go home for many months. Seawalls and building stronger homes can help to withstand hurricane winds. Raum has done an excellent job of teaching young readers what happens before, during and after a devastating hurricane. Actual photos show homes ripped to pieces, cars piled up and hurricanes in action. Entire communities pull together to start the cleanup. The back of the book has maps, a glossary and many resources to help young readers, teachers and parents learn more about hurricanes and how to keep safe. Part of the “Children’s True Stories: Natural Disasters” series. 2012, Raintree, Ages 7 to 12, $22.49.
REVIEWER: : Kristi Bernard (Children’s Literature).
Zane and the Hurricane: A Story of Katrina
Zane Dupree is not looking forward to a trip to New Orleans to stay with a great-grandmother he’s never met. His only consolation is that his beloved black-and-white mutt, Bandy, is coming with him. Zane arrives in “Smellyville” on a Monday in late August, which just happens to be the day before a tropical depression forms over the Bahamas, which then develops into a Category 5 storm known as Katrina. Chasing Bandy, who flees from their vehicle as it is stuck in traffic desperately trying to escape the doomed city, Zane endures 175-mile-an-hour winds and rising flood waters until he is rescued by a lame jazz musician named Mr. Tru and his charge, a tough-talking, joke-telling girl named Malvina. Together, the three humans and one canine experience all the worst that Katrina has to offer, with human menace outdoing any menace caused by Mother Nature. Newbery honor recipient Rodman Philbrick (The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg) offers up a wrenching survival story that painfully illuminates America’s ongoing racism and indifference to the poor. The grimness of the narrative is relieved by the joy of being in the company of Philbrick’s radiantly kind and caring quartet of main characters, whose enduring commitment to one another serves as a hopeful counterpoint to the callousness and cruelty exposed in Katrina’s aftermath. (Malvina’s constant stream of bad jokes is pretty funny, too.) Where there is love, the human spirit can triumph over almost anything. “True dat.” 2014, Blue Sky/Scholastic, Ages 10 to 14, $16.99.
REVIEWER: Claudia Mills, Ph.D. (Children’s Literature).